(February 5, 2004 — Iqaluit, Nunavut) Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. today praised federal Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew’s decision to cancel the requirement for Inuit and First Nations peoples to sign a consent health form in order to receive Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB).
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. was pleased to hear that Health Canada has finally put an end to this invasive and inappropriate initiative. We were very concerned that the federal government was planning to intrude on the privacy of Inuit, especially in an area as fundamental as health care, said NTI Acting President James Eetoolook.
The NIHB’s Consent Initiative was originally to have taken effect September 1, 2003. NTI wrote to the previous federal health minister last June calling for the initiative to be dropped. NTI argued that the federal government was risking violation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement by its failure to consult directly with NTI on this issue. Health Canada then extended the deadline of the initiative to March 1, 2004.
Pettigrew announced his decision to cancel the program yesterday.
Had the initiative not been cancelled, Health Canada indicated it was prepared to withhold Non-Insured Health Benefits to Inuit and First Nations people unless they signed consent forms. Critics widely agreed the information gained through the signing of the forms could potentially be used to violate Aboriginal peoples’ privacy rights, though Health Canada said it planned to collect, use and disclose personal information for the administration, delivery and management of the NIHB program only.
Though NTI was relieved at the news, Eetoolook said the organization plans to closely monitor Health Canada’s continuing intent to seek express consent of clients to share their personal information in cases where Health Canada believes client safety or inappropriate use of the health care system is a concern.
We would like to see Health Canada develop a clear and transparent set of guidelines they will use when determining if Inuit or First Nations people are inappropriately using the health care system. The danger exists for this initiative to become too subjective or biased, said Eetoolook.
For further information:
Director of Communications
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated
Tel: (867) 975-4914
Cell: (867) 975-1337